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On the Future Role and Method of Work of COPUOS
U.S. Statement under Agenda Item 14 of the 65th UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
June 8, 2022

Agenda Item 14: Future Role and Method of Work of the Committee

As prepared for delivery by Valda Vikmanis Keller, U.S. Head of Delegation
65th Session of the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
Vienna, Austria, June 7, 2022

Mister Chair,

The challenges facing the world today are larger and more complex than when the United Nations was founded. From pandemics to climate, the multilateral system is being tested in unprecedented ways. Nevertheless, core principles of sovereignty, solidarity, and fairness endure.

The United States thanks the Secretary-General for sharing his vision of how we can recommit to the UN’s purpose and principles and innovate the UN’s practices. The “Our Common Agenda” report (A/75/982) identifies many of the world’s most critical challenges, including maintaining the peaceful, secure and sustainable use of outer space in the face of new risks to security, safety, and sustainability.

To address these challenges, the report of the Secretary General proposes to convene a multi-stakeholder dialogue on space as part of a Summit of the Future to be held in conjunction with the high-level week of the seventy-eighth session of the General Assembly. This multi-stakeholder dialogue would bring together Member States of the United Nations and other leading space actors.

Such a multi-stakeholder dialogue has the potential to inspire us all to work together to help ensure the sustainable and peaceful use of outer space for current and future generations. To realize this vision, Member States must proceed strategically and identify priorities in areas where the UN has a comparative advantage.

Mister Chair,

Planning for a multi-stakeholder dialogue also must respect the existing international legal framework applicable to space activities, leverage existing programs and forums, respect the mandates of the UN’s current bodies and subsidiary bodies, as well as the mandates of other international organizations and other fora, and be cognizant of budgetary limitations.

Human activity in space is increasing in both volume and complexity. Nevertheless, all space activity continues to be governed by the four core – and widely accepted – treaties on outer space: the Outer Space Treaty; the Rescue and Return Agreement; and the Liability and Registration Conventions. Under the legal framework of these treaties, the exploration and use of space by States, intergovernmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, and private entities has flourished.

Activities in outer space are also guided by extensive work of the UN Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) and its subcommittees.  In UNCOPUOS, a growing number of space-faring States and relevant stakeholders already work constructively to address sustainability issues in space, including most of those noted in ”Our Common Agenda.”

As the United States notes in Conference room paper A/AC.105/2022/CRP.17 submitted jointly with Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom, it is essential that planning for a high-level track on space at the Summit of the Future take full account of the unique role of UNCOPUOS and its subcommittees, as reaffirmed in General Assembly resolution 76/3 “The ‘Space2030’ Agenda: space as a driver of sustainable development.”

Planning by the Secretariat for the multi-stakeholder dialogue on space also should ensure that the Committee and its Member States have the fullest opportunity to provide contributions for both the high-level track and any preparatory events organized by the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs, other elements of the UN Secretariat, as well as by Member States.

In this regard, the United States welcomes the plans of Austria and Portugal to make elements of “Our Common Agenda’s” space proposals a focus for international conferences later this year and in 2023. The United States believes such events can serve as valuable mechanisms for direct exchanges among experts from governments, academia, commercial sector actors and not-for-profit entities from around the globe.

Planning by the UN Secretariat for a multi-stakeholder dialogue on space should also take into account the joint panel discussion on “Possible challenges to space security and sustainability,” which will be held by the General Assembly’s First Committee and Fourth Committee during its seventy-seventh session. This joint panel discussion will be convened pursuant to General Assembly resolution 76/55 “Transparency and confidence-building measures in outer space activities.”

Mister Chair,

The United States will continue to engage substantively on the underlying challenges maintaining the peaceful, secure and sustainable use of outer space, and we pledge to do all we can to ensure that the United Nations, this Committee and the values they represent will endure over time.